RateBeer Weekly Magazine > Beer Travels
Beerhunting Japan Style
ISLANDHAOLE HITS PAYDIRT IN OKINAWA
March 6, 2003
<P> Had a few days off over the weekend and decided to make a quick beer run........ to Japan! Well, I went to see my kids, but the beer run was never far from my mind!
<P> I arrived in Yokota Air Base (outside of Fussa City, near Tokyo) Friday evening and had to stay overnight to catch my connecting flight to Okinawa the next morning. I booked a room for the night and then headed out looking for beer and food, in that order. As it was 34 F (1 C), I was in the mood for something warming. Fortunately I was able to find both hot food and a few new beers at one location right across the street from the base. Hathi Café is a quaint Indian curry restaurant that has delicious authentic Indian food prepared by a Bangladeshi chef. I chose an eggplant and mutton curry with the traditional Indian bread, naan. The food was wonderful, hot and spicy with a thick rich sauce and the sweetness of cardamom. For beers, I had Maharajah from India, Bali Hai from Indonesia and 333 from Vietnam. The waitress was both petite and beautiful and a joy to watch, it was a great evening. I stopped at a store on the way back and bought a sixer of Paulaner Oktoberfest Märzen for the nightcap back in my room. On the way back, I evidently headed down a street I wasn’t supposed to use and was faced with a small fence to climb. No problem I thought, and made it over with ease. Unfortunately the bag carrying my empty bottles of Maharajah and Bali Hai snagged and crashed to the ground in pieces. So much for adding those bottles to the international collection.
<P> Though 4:30 AM came terribly quick, I made the connecting flight and arrived in Kadena Air Base Okinawa, beers in tow, with no trouble. Directly outside the gate of Kadena AB is a liquor store called “Altech”, this is a chain of liquor stores throughout Japan and this store, though pricey, has a great selection of beer from Europe. I had the taxi driver make a quick stop and walked out with a bag heavy with beer and my wallet much lighter. I bought Hoeegarden Wit, Flensburger Brauerei-Schlosbrau Braunfelser 1868, La Trappe Quadruple, La Trappe Double, St Sebastian Dark, Henninger, Stella Artois, something called X.O. Beer La Bière au Cognac and even found Brooklyn Lager!
<P> I arrived home (unannounced!) and seeing my children’s faces go from disbelief to joy as I walked in was worth the trip, even without the beer! Much to my surprise, my ex had a Newton apple beer waiting to send to me. I spent an enjoyable weekend with my kids and drinking good beer. On Sunday evening we feasted on Okinawan food and sushi! I picked up a few Japanese brews at a local shop a few blocks from home; Sapporo- Extra Sparkling Draft, Asahi-Minori San Mai and Sparks, Kirin-Tan Rei Alpha and Shiro Kirin Mild. It always amazes me how many new beers are now on the market in Japan. Sadly, most are the same tasteless American Standards that we’ve all come to loathe.
<P> After a few short days, it was off to Yokota again to catch the return flight to Guam. As I reached the bottom of the stairs heading off the plane, the strap on my bag broke and the bag hit the ground with a horrid crunch. The dark brown liquid started oozing from the bottom of the bag; I held back the tears and made my way to the terminal apologizing for the “Trail of Ale” I left behind me. I stopped at the nearest trashcan and opened my bag to survey the damage, I knew from the smell it was something good and not the Japanese macros. Much to my dismay both the St. Sebastian and the La Trappe Double (both in ceramic bottles) had broken open. They sure did look and smell good though. At least the other bottles made it intact. I wrapped each in several layers of newspaper and thought that would suffice being that they were in my hand carried bag. Nothing could be done about it now though.
<P> With it being 32 F (0C) and snowing, another trip to Hathi’s was in order! This time I had the black sesame seed and mutton curry, again with the naan. I had Saigon Beer from of course Vietnam, as my beverage. The food was delicious as expected and the waitress, (another one this time) was equally as attractive as the last one was. I made short work of the meal and fortified against the cold with a stomach full of hot curry, headed off to stroll through the snowy evening. I spied a large supermarket sign several blocks away and made off to track down some Japanese craft beers. My hunch paid off and I found six additional Japanese beers: Koedo Brewery- Mitterbauer, Ganso, and one called simply, No.1. I also found Asahi Black, Tokyo Beer; “Tama No Megumi” by Ishikawa Brewery (in a 500 ml bottle that proudly proclaims “bottle conditioned” in English on the label) and one called Land Brauerei “Echigo Beer”. Now "echigo" is the Japanese word for "strawberry", but the label says “pilsner” and to confuse you even more, has a picture of a goat like Celebrator! Leave it to the Japanese!
<P> I’m happy to say that I, the rest of my beer and bottles made it back to Guam “the road kill capital of the world” intact. I will be posting my ratings soon and probably be adding a few new Japanese beers to the database. As soon as I get time, I will send photos of them too. It’s time to unpack and get ready for work tomorrow.
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